The Roar
The Roar


How do A-League fans convince police that passion is not a crime?

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3rd March, 2024
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One of the biggest games on the Australian sporting calendar took place in front of a huge crowd on Saturday night – and it had nothing to do with a wagering-fuelled trip to Las Vegas.

Just under 28,000 fans turned out at a packed CommBank Stadium in Parramatta for the 37th instalment of the Sydney Derby on Saturday night.

Unfortunately for Wanderers fans, their team went missing when they were needed most.

Sydney FC’s 4-1 demolition of their crosstown rivals Western Sydney wasn’t just one of their most comprehensive wins of the season.

It was also the sixth Sydney derby win in a row for the away team in a run that stretches back to the opening of the new Allianz Stadium in November 2022.

Fabio Gomes celebrates a Sydney Derby goal with teammates (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

The Wanderers were never at the races after going two goals down inside the opening seven minutes, and if the penalty conceded by Lachlan Brook for handball was a bit harsh, it was the home team’s diabolical second-half defending that put the game to bed.

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The sidelined Socceroos shot-stopper could only watch on forlornly from the stands as first Robbie Mak, then Fabio Gomes punished individual errors to put the Sky Blues four goals to the good.

Not even Zac Sapsford’s late consolation could lift the home fans’ spirits, with Sydney FC’s high press suffocating the hosts on the night.

It could be a costly defeat for Marko Rudan’s side – not least because they’ve now got Brisbane Roar snapping at their heels following their 3-2 win over Melbourne Victory.

There were far fewer fans at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday afternoon, but those in attendance created a raucous atmosphere that was a reminder of days gone by.

The home fans had plenty to cheer about, too, as recent Roar signing Marco Rojas headed the hosts into the lead against the team he played more than 100 games for.

And if it was unusual to see one of the smallest players in the competition open the scoring with his head, Rojas proved it was no fluke when he stooped low at the far post to convert a Keegan Jelacic cross in the second half.


That came after the influential Zinedine Machach fired home a rasping low drive to level the scores at 1-1 in what was an entertaining encounter despite Brisbane’s oppressive humidity.

The hosts took a deserved 3-1 lead when Paul Izzo could only palm Jelacic’s shot straight into the path of teenage striker Tom Waddingham, and the Roar ended up needing that goal after new Victory signing Roly Bonevacia pulled one back late on.

It was another impressive performance from Ruben Zadkovich’s side and one that sets up an intriguing clash with Ufuk Talay’s in-form Sydney FC next weekend.

And the fans inside Suncorp Stadium – particularly those congregated behind the goal – produced an excellent atmosphere for the entire 95 minutes.

That’s despite the fact The Den walked out en masse in just the 25th minute of the game.

There is absolutely no doubt the A-League has a policing problem.

The RBB sits empty after Wanderers fans clashed with police (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)


It’s been a problem for years now and as we saw with both the Red and Black Bloc and The Den walking out this weekend – not to mention the problems The Bullpen continue to have in Campbelltown – fans have simply had enough.

The over-policing of fans is one reason attendances have fallen off a cliff in recent seasons.

The problem seems to arise because some Australian police cannot seem to stomach the sight of a large, well-organised group of fans chanting in unison.

It’s in stark contrast to the NRL and AFL – where fans are much more passive consumers than active participants in the game.

And it’s lead to a form of hysterical, 1950s-style policing that sees some officers spend their entire shift antagonising supporters and believing they can act with impunity.

If A-League administrators actually understood their own fan base, they’d stand up for football fans.

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But this is Australia, which means those who create the atmosphere are invariably the first ones punished for it.